|Sen. Tim Hutchinson (Republican)|
Tim Hutchinson was born in 1949 and raised on his family's farm in Gravette, Arkansas -- a small town 17 miles west of Bentonville in the northwest corner of the state. He graduated from Springdale High School and the conservative Bob Jones University in South Carolina and earned a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of Arkansas.
During his diverse career, Hutchinson has been a Baptist minister, the owner and operator of a small radio station and a history teacher.
He was elected to the Arkansas State House of Representatives in 1985 and served until being elected to represent the 3rd U.S. Congressional District in 1992 by defeating Democrat John Winkle 50 percent to 47 percent. In 1996, when the Republican front-runner for the U.S. Senate nomination, Lt. Governor Mike Huckabee, took the reins of the state government after the indictment and resignation of Gov. Jim Guy Tucker during the Whitewater investigation, the state Republican convention nominated a hesitant Hutchinson.
His opponent, State Attorney General Winston Bryant, tried to paint Hutchinson as a Gingrich Republican who was out of touch with Arkansas voters. Hutchinson's supporters, however, pointed to his standing as one of a handful of Republicans who had advocated the public disclosure of an investigation into Gingrich's political action committee. Hutchinson also accused Bryant of having been fiscally irresponsible in his proposals. In the end, Hutchinson won the race 53 percent to 46 percent. At the same time, his brother Asa -- who was later to become the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration -- succeeded him in the House.
The man who President Clinton once dubbed "No Tax Tim" amassed a solidly conservative voting record in the House and Senate. He supported NAFTA but "opposed Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China because of its human rights abuses, though big Arkansas businesses like Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods backed it, and his brother Asa voted for it: a rare instance of fraternal disagreement," wrote Michael Barone in the Almanac of American Politics.
In the Senate, Hutchinson serves on the Armed Services; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; and Veterans' Affairs committees, as well as the Special Committee on Aging.
In his first run for reelection as senator, Hutchinson faces a well-known name from Arkansas politics -- state Attorney General Mark Pryor, the son of popular former U.S. Sen. David Pryor.
According to Barone, speculation abounds as to whether Hutchinson's recent divorce and remarriage to a former staffer will weaken support in his conservative base, located in the state's northwest quadrant.
"The initial furor clearly has subsided. But while no one predicts mass defections, analysts say the danger for Hutchinson is a loss of his base's organizing zeal and turnout when every vote will count" the Washington Post's Dale Rusakoff wrote in August.
Speculation that Mark Pryor may seek to make an issue of Hutchinson's remarriage reached its height when Pryor missed a fundraiser hosted by Bill Clinton. Pryor was "making a strong bid for the moral rectitude vote," wrote the Washington Post's Dana Milbank.
Both national parties are spending time and money on behalf of their candidates and the race has been repeatedly evaluated as one "too close to call."
--By Jason Manning, Online NewsHour